Saturday, December 30, 2006

When is a Pup not a Dog?

When it's a restaurant of course! Last night El 3atal and I were out near the Abdoun Circle when I saw this. I had to quickly snap a shot for all of you here. While I was taking the picture (twice since the first time I hit discard rather than store...), El 3atal was hanging out on the sidewalk waiting. He was standing next to a small van when suddenly the window opened and a special forces soldier was sitting inside. El 3atal smiled and greeted him. He asked "Am I blocking your view?" Apparently he wasn't. Interestingly, there were about 8 of the soldiers in this one small van. They were just "protecting the peace" and making sure nothing happened. I'm not sure if it was for the Eid or the situation with Saddam or both. Regardless, the fellow was very nice and we were quite amused at the sight of all these big guys in this little van. It rather put me in mind of a clown car that 100 guys would come tumbling out of.

As the only word I'm going to say about the Saddam situation, what were they thinking? They couldn't come up with better timing than this to carry out the death sentence? Regardless of whether you believe the trial was fair, the sentence appropriate, etc., it's hard to argue that timing couldn't be better. Enough said.

And as for the Eid, I hope everyone has a very happy Eid and a wonderful New Year!

Happy misspellings!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Left Behind in the Digital Age: E-enabled Season's Greetings

Okay, I'm not technically unsavvy. I know what a Blackberry is (you couldn't PAY me to carry one, there is such a thing as too available), I've managed many application development projects, I've heard of VB, .net, ASP, C#, C++, you know... But I live in world where electronic holiday greetings come in the form of cards sent via Blue Mountain or a newsletter put in .pdf format and e-mailed. Boy has this year been eye-opening! About 5 years ago, we visited Jordan and realized the stark difference in the adoption of technology related to mobile phones. At that time in the US, most people had cell phones, but few used them to send text messages. They were really an extension of the home phone/work phone concept. In fact, American carriers built price structures around this attitude (perhaps creating it), charging you for all airtime (calls made and received) and putting together "minutes" packages. I was struck by the use of mobiles for sending messages. Seeing young people's fingers flying as the they pressed the keys without looking was an art form. And then, we went back to the US and I forgot how much this had impressed me.

Five years down the line, here I am living in Jordan and what do I receive? On Christmas Day, I received three or four SMS (text) messages from friends and colleagues saying Merry Christmas. That's right, the Christmas card is dead, replaced by the... Christmas SMS? No longer do I have to take the time to carefully select a card that represents my feelings, I can just type in a short Merry Christmas message and select all of the people to whom I'd like to send it. Click, click and across town, maybe across the country, people's cell phones, ding, ring, and buzz to let them know an SMS has been received. And the beauty of this? They don't even pay to receive the message. And I pay almost nothing to send it. Now, for the colleagues who sent their SMS' at midnight, shame on you! I guess they assume everyone turns their phones onto silent at night. But for the rest of you, thanks for introducing me to Christmas in cyberspace. Now it's my turn to get together a message to say Happy Eid to my Muslim colleagues. You know, I really like it here!

Happy SMSing!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Traditions: Old and New

Since El 3atal and I got married, and particularly since we had kids, we've been going through the process of deciding which Christmas traditions we would keep from each of our families. As I suspect is often the case, my family had more traditions I'd like to keep. Of course, it also had some I'm happy to be getting rid of. Having finished our first Christmas in Jordan, we managed to keep several of the things that were important to us. But Christmas did have a different feel here. So, thinking about that, I'm reflecting on Christmas traditions of my family, both those we've kept and those we've (happily) lost.

Traditions that we will pass on:
  • Poems: I failed miserably at this one this year, but will improve next year. In my family, each person is expected to write a poem to go on the gifts that they give to others. I assure you that absolutely no groundshaking new artists are being discovered. However, it puts each of us in the position of thinking about what we're giving to someone else. It also pushes each of us to expand our vocabulary. How often do you have to come up with a word that rhymes with massage?
  • Unique and special Christmas trees: I see people with these beautiful works of art called Christmas trees. The have only red ornaments or red and gold alone.While I can appreciate the artistic beauty, I know I'll never have one of those trees. 80% of my Christmas tree ornaments have special meaning to me. Every year, I take all of my ornaments out and spread them on the table. They go into categories (plastic ornaments for the bottom of the tree that the kids can reach, annual ornaments, etc.) and from there get placed on the tree. The last ornaments to go on the tree, which are used only to fill remaining space, are the glass balls and bells. How could I ever have a tree without my Martian man? How could I leave off the ornament that we bought while living in Phoenix to remind us of our time there? What would Christmas mean without pictures of the children hanging on the tree?
  • An annual ornament for each child: Every year, El 3atal and I seek out a special ornament for each of our children. When the ornament is selected, we write the child's name and year on it. This year, we got really lovely paper mache ornaments in bright colors for 1JD at Ahliyya's Christmas Festival. Once the children move out on their own, they'll have the starts of a unique and lovely Christmas tree of their own.
  • Reading the Christmas story from the Bible: In my family, we read the Christmas story every year on Christmas Eve. When we got older and it got harder to wait for Christmas morning, we followed the reading with opening one gift (how disappointing was it the year I picked BATTERIES as my Christmas Eve gift...). I found that starting the festivities with the Christmas story helped us focus on why we were there.
  • Angel Tree donations: Another one that we weren't able to do this year. I'm going to see if I can't get something going here next year. Since I was a young girl, my family has always done an angel tree gift. For those who may not be familiar with the program, the Angel Tree started in my hometown (Montgomery, Alabama). Now the Salvation Army has adopted it and spread it across the nation. The program is an awesome one that focuses on ministering to prisoners' families. You go up to the tree and select an "angel". These are families where the caregiver has signed the family up to participate. The children's parents are in prison and unable to afford/provide gifts for Christmas. The angel will have the child's first name, age, clothes size, and wish list on it. I always looked for someone my age with similar interests (and now the kids' ages). Every year I tried to find the money to give a gift and a full set of clothes. For many of these children, this is the only Christmas they will have. Last year, Leila and I picked out our angel together and selected the gifts for her.
  • Big Christmas lunch: Christmas lunch was spent either with my Uncle's family (usually) or with friends invited over. With such a small family (Mom, my brother, and I) it just made more sense to have others with us. El 3atal and I are doing the same thing. Yesterday we had 12 people over for Christmas lunch. Last year was a bit smaller, but much the same.
  • Santa Claus: Unlike many people who felt disillusioned, hurt, and betrayed by Santa not being real, I loved Santa and still do. When I was about 5, I realized that Santa's handwriting and my Mom's handwriting was the same. However, I didn't want to spoil things for my older brother, so I said nothing. He believed until he was about 10. And, honestly, part of me still believes. Oh, not that there's a guy in a red suit who flies about coming down chimneys, but that the ideal of Santa is still there. That everyone of us can make a difference in the life of one child by ensuring that everyone has a gift under the tree. I still believe that the love and selflessness of Santa can be in all of us, and I want my children the have that as well. As with the Easter Bunny, there are things that are a common part of the American experience that I want my children to have. Now, we won't ever have a Santa figure on the roof or reindeer on the lawn, but we will sing Santa songs right alongside the most beautiful carols in the world (Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, What Child is This?, the Little Drummer Boy).

Traditions we're losing (happily and not so):

  • Stockings: As a child, we had a huge stuffed stocking. We opened our stocking, then had breakfast, then opened the presents under the tree. This year as I was thinking about how overwhelming this was and how I didn't really get stocking stuffer, I realized that this isn't a tradition I want to focus on. Maybe as the kids get older I'll revive it, but somehow I don't think so. This year's stocking-less Christmas was just right.
  • Excessive gift-giving: Growing up, my family overdid in a BIG BIG way. On Christmas morning, the bottom 1/3 of the tree would be covered with gifts. They were typically stacked so high that it was hard to enter the room. The first gifts distributed were the ones closest to the outside. My Mom has tendencies to over-do even when there isn't a holiday. And she loves Christmas. So these combine into just too much. Even when we've set limits, she finds it hard to hold to them. But, for our family's sanity, we won't be doing the excessive Christmases. This year, El 3atal and I got one gift for each of the kids. Now Mimi (my Mom) had sent 2 or 3 for each and Teta brought some, and Auntie Jim brought some, and Auntie Linda... well, you get the picture. But even so, all of the gifts were unwrapped within about an hour. So, for us less is certainly more.
  • Christmas breakfast: When I was a child, Christmas breakfast started with a grapefruit cut in half with a cherry in the center. Now, I don't know if this was a tradition before my Mom's cousin owned a citrus farm and sent a case of oranges and grapefruits every year or not. However, for us, breakfast every day tends more towards chocolate chip pancakes, so I don't think we'll be resurrecting the traditional family breakfast.

And there are some traditions that I want to build as the children get older, like making ornaments (we did this when I was a child, oh and these ornaments are still on my tree). I hear great ideas from other families (giving food to street children) that I think maybe we'll try and see if we can't make work for us, in our own way. And next year, I'm making a promise to myself that I'm getting that Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set. I've been meaning to for the last 3 years, since the Little People invaded my house. Now, I'm really going to do it... I hope.

Happy Traditions! (and Merry Christmas!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Like Greeting Old Friends...

The beans and I started decorating the Christmas tree tonight. In fact, if we had our final box, I'd be done. Unfortunately, I'm not at all sure where it is. But, the majority of our Christmas decorations were included in the boxes we have found. As I was opening them up, it was like greeting old friends. About 40% of the ornament are ones from when I was a little girl. Some are ones that my Mom, brother, and I painted. Others are cherished and treasured friends to young children. They are mostly my favorites, the gumdrop man that has lost a leg, the small girl in a yellow dress whose head is lopsided, the little soldier boy who lost his his hanging top years ago. But, always my favorite, the one I waited anxiously to see come out of the box is my Martian man. My brother called him a robot, but I was convinced that he was a martian. See the picture above. So many of the ornaments were designed for the fun of children... And so, tonight, it was a greeting of old friends and a warming of my heart. I hope you enjoy the pictures of my martian man as much as I enjoyed meeting him once again.

Happy decorating!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's NOT alive and the reflections of a tree thief

So, for the first time in my life (that's right all 35 years!) my Christmas tree this year is a fake. I've always had real trees, the scent of pine drifting through the house, the beauty of the greens that only nature can make... This year, we've got a fake tree :(. Now, I know it's what is done here, well that or something in a pot, but it's just very different for me. Let me give a bit a of insight into my previous Christmas Tree experiences, so that you better understand where I'm coming from...

I was raised in a small city in the Southern US by a single Mom. With two kids, we didn't have alot of left over money for extras. As a result, my very handy mother as always looking for ways to save money. I know you're wondering where in the world I'm going with this, but bear with me. We were members of a sailing club on a nice wooded lake about an hour from our house where we spent many, many happy summer days. But, come Christmas time, my mother would remember the wooded acres and decide that no one would miss a stray tree. So, off we would go, piling into the car bundled up against the chill. We'd head off to the dirt road leading out to the club, find a likely spot, and pull over. The my Mom would bring out her saw. Now, my Mom had a wide array of interesting tools, but the "stealing a Christmas tree" saw was my favorite. It was a wire saw that curled up to be the size of a small key chain ring. She'd unfurl the saw and begin to cut the tree while my brother held it and I nearly died of embarrassment. El 3atal compared it the other day to cutting down a tree with dental floss. In fact, that's a pretty apt description. Then we'd head home with the tree and I'd spend a half hour getting pricked by its mean needles before we got it into the tree stand. All in all, that was my least favorite part of the Christmas experience, the pricks and pokes from the mean, mean tree. So, I'm a semi-repentant tree thief who's experiencing my first ever non-real Christmas tree. And, let me tell you it just isn't the same. Not only doesn't it look the same, but it lacks the pricking poking and dodging exercise provided by real trees :). I never thought I'd find myself missing that.

So, a fellow compatriot said, well, at least you won't have the needles littering the floor and I did see this as some minor compensation. Then we put up the tree... Now, we need to vacuum. Who knew a fake tree would shed? So, today we're down to putting on the lights and ornaments. I hope once we're done, it won't be obvious that the tree isn't real, but suspect it's just wishful thinking...

Happy tree thievery!

Making History?

Last night, I was unusually able to convince El 3atal to take me to a favorite spot for hot chocolate. In the process, we noticed that the new bridge across from Deir Ghbar to Abdun was open. Having explored around the nastiness of the closed bridge several times recently, I was quite interested to see how much they had actually finished. Wow! While we were on vacation, it seems that they managed to complete the new hideously ugly superstructure bridge. I know my opinion may very well be a minority, but I'm not thrilled by the concrete and steel suspension bridge. I don't think it's pretty. Paint it purple or blue (or any color), and maybe I'll change my mind... But for now, I'm not sold. I AM, however, sold on the speed with which you can now navigate from the fourth circle to the Blue Fig! Or even beyond... How amazing is that? So, we took the new bridge and came up at the fourth circle and I find that, as much as I don't plan to drive on the bridge (call me overly cautious), it will be very nice for the people who live out on that end of town.

Speaking of bridges and my reluctance to drive on this one, let me explain it. Shortly after I came to Amman for the very first time, El 3atal was showing me a very simple, uncomplicated bridge that had been built over Airport Road. He mentioned that immediately after they finished it, it fell down, so they had to build it again. Yikes! Color me VERY scared of a curved, concrete suspension bridge that is clearly complicated. So, I'll stay earth bound when possible, but was pleased to see an end to the annoying challenges getting around in that area.

Happy rappelling!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas Really IS Coming!

Okay, so last night ButterBean and I had a nice Mommy-daughter experience. We went to see the YWCA Choir in cooperation with Dozan Wa Atwar sing A Christmas candle. Once again Shireen Abu Khader outdid herself. I didn't imagine that this could be better than the Requiem, but it was even more lovely. And, to be honest, I had been having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. It's so odd to not see Christmas lights up and parking lots full of Christmas trees for sale. No Christmas trees with lights on them winking out through windows. Stores only just getting stocked for Christmas. So, I've been feeling decidedly off-beat. But last night, the very first song (Bisaba Hil Alf Italet) with a solo by Nadine Shahuan moved me to tears. It's not in English (clearly) and I've never heard it before, but the beauty was in mistakable. The soloist had an amazing talent. In fact, all of the performers did. Because this performance was targeted at kids, the choir had the audience help in several places (we even got to conduct one of the pieces serving as a metronome). They told a little story, explained the instruments being used. All in all it was very kid-friendly. By the last two songs, ButterBean was tired, but she enjoyed the audience participation in the last two. Reem Abu-Rahmeh on the piano and in the supporting actress role (or was she the lead actress?) was wonderful. Now I'm trying to pressure her to take over at ButterBean's school when her mom leaves (if you know her help me out on this). And, I can't talk about the performance without giving a huge nod to Zaid Salfiti. This young man possesses a mighty talent (and he's very handsome). I had the joy of sitting in the front row and the sound quality and animation of the performers was amazing. It has so inspired me, that I plan to get out my Christmas decorations today. While we don't have a tree yet, I have lots and lots of Christmas hangings, etc, that can get put out now. So, I'm excited to do it. The team is performing one more time tonight in Fuheis at the Sacred Heat of Mary Church. I seriously recommend that you go see it. I can't say enough complimentary things. And, thank you to the entire choir for giving me the spirit of Christmas when I was having trouble finding it. I appreciate it and you. Hats off to Shireen Abu Khader for outdoing herself!

Happy Preparations!

Friday, December 08, 2006

New friends, by jove it's a wallaby (I think)

So, recently El 3atal and I took some out of town guests to Petra to experience the beauty of the Jordanian past. After trekking (via donkey) up to the monastery, we met a world traveler. I understand from his escorts that he has his own website, but I haven't been able to find it. Of course, that may be owing to the fact that I can't quite remember his name... However, I did find that he also made it to a bicycle race. Check out this site, with pic:

Like Elmo (who calls them pouchy-roos), I too love to share. Okay, maybe I'm mixing Elmos a bit :). Seriously, I honestly have no idea what the difference is between a kangaroo and a wallaby (and a walleroo). But, I think this guys is one of them. Hope you enjoy the pics of our inflatable friend.

Happy hopping!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ouch, that hurts! (I've been tagged) and final thoughts on the ICT Forum

Okay, so the lovely and talented Salam tagged me today (funny how it makes you feel included). So, the instructions say grab the book closest to you. Unfortunately, that's my book for Arabic class and only has 104 pages. So, I have to give away my little secret. You'll understand in a minute.

Page 123, 5th sentence (+3)

The most recent and major renovations to the house had been commissioned by the third Duke of Raeburn, beginning in 1763. His contribution had been the addition of the east and west wings, and the central facade of the U-shaped house, done in the Palladian style. Great stone steps led up to massive Ionic columns that held up a carved pedimented entryway. The interior of the house was every bit as sumptous as its exterior.

(I assure you this is neither an architecture book nor a history one...)

Name: The Husband Trap
Author: Tracy Anne Warren

So now you know my secret. I'm a closet romance-novel a-holic. In fact, moving to Jordan has been quite costly for me as there aren't any libraries where I can check out romances and I typically read 4-5 a week. If anyone has a stash they want to share, I'd be happy to do book swaps!

So now, following the instructions, I have to tag three people... Hmm... Here goes. El 3atal (hahahaha), Samer (Jazarah), and Roba (And Far Away). Bam! Your turn... So here's the tag, you need to:

1- Grab the book closest to you.
2- Open to page 123, scroll down to the 5th sentence
3- Post the text of next 3 sentences on your blog
4- Name of the book and the author
5- Tag 3 People

While the tagging concept seems a tad too close to chain letters for my liking, I love this one, because it implies that we MUST be reading a book. So, I guess this is one more way to implement Lina's idea to "Get Caught Reading."

Now for a few final thoughts on the ICT Forum. I went to the Forum today mostly because El 3atal's cousin was speaking. I am so glad I did! I found the morning sessions today to be MUCH better than yesterday. More content and less fluff. The speakers were engaging. Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya was absolutely eloquent. She was also passionate, dedicated, and humble (giving credit to her team , the hallmark of a great leader). I am now a huge fan... (and if you know her, you can tell her MommaBean said so, teehee). I also did speak to int@j about the coordination issues. I found out that they hired a firm to handle the registration and event coordination. I didn't get the firm's name, but will to make sure we never have such a poorly managed event. So, my initial impressions have given way to more lasting positive ones. I'd even attend again next year after the sessions today. I did miss the afternoon sessions. I think I was too focused on lunch and the networking opportunities therein. Ah, well. Oh, and I needed some time with the Beans, so I left a bit early. So, at any rate...

Tag... You're It!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Maaaaa, Another blogsheep at the ICT Forum

So, I figured I can't buck the trend. I suspect I'm the most anonymous of the bloggers at the ICT Forum as I know so few people. But I did see Ameen and Lina. I also rode back on the bus with Roba, so it was a nice experience. I have to admit that the forum was rather exactly what I expected. The organization leading up to it and at the forum itself were what I've come to expect from Jordanian events and organizations. I'm sorry to say that isn't very positive. Alas, life goes on. It has been a very nice networking event as I met a number of the folks previously at the int@j strategy development workshops. But all in all, the event is light on thought-provoking content and rich on networking opportunities. I've been enjoying it, but disappointed at how far from world-class the organization of the event has been. Maybe I'll have to speak to int@j about that :). After all, in my long and industrious career, I've planned and executed quite a few of these events. But, I'm going back for a second day to hear El 3atal's cousin speak as part of one of the panels. One highlight so far is the same cousin's book being held up and shown about by Edgar Masri, CEO of 3Com. Talk about cool. So, at any rate, I'll be on to other topics tomorrow (or later today), I'm certain, but I wanted to follow the other lemmings and post about the Forum. After all, it seems to be a mark of distinction among bloggers to have attended.

Happy technologizing!

Monday, December 04, 2006

The government-sanctioned Beep Beep culture

As I was on my way to work this morning, I realized that the over-use of horns is really NOT the fault of the people of Jordan. Not only do they not know anything different, but the government actually makes them do it. How's that? Work with me here... When you pull up to a traffic light in Jordan, you find they have not placed the light across the intersection where it is clearly visible to all nor put a big white line telling you where to stop. Instead they put the traffic signal itself on a post to the right (and left) on the corner. Thus, when you stop at the intersection, you can't see the light. As a result, you can't see the light if you're the first person in line. Sometimes they put a smaller light facing nearly into the intersection. However, that assumes that no one is on your right blocking your view and also that it isn't angled so much that you still can't see it. Unfortunately one of these two circumstances is very likely to occur. So, the reality is that if you are first in line the only real way to know that the light has changed is to wait for the honks of the people behind you. Now, if you think that honking is an appropriate way to indicate that the light has changed, this is bound to spill over. Why not honk if you want someone to know that you will NOT stop for them? And why not if you don't like where they are parked? And why not if you want someone to come out of their house (although 5 minutes is excessive)? In short, the horn becomes a communication tool rather than an urgent attention grabber. And, it's the government's fault...

Happy honking!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Open 25 hours?

As you can clearly see, the shop to the right is "Open 25 hours", so I ask you, which 25? As there are only 24 hours in a day, I have to assume that they are open 25 hours during the week. So which of the 168 available hours are they open? Maybe they're open 3 hours a day four days of the week and 4 on two days and 5 on one day. Or hmmm, maybe they're open all day Monday plus an hour on Tuesday and then closed for the rest of the week. I'm in a flurry of confusion trying to figure this one out. Anyone have any ideas?

Happy hourly wages!

Gratuitous Circles

This blog post has been several months coming. I've been meaning to stop and take a picture of this, but kept forgetting or not having time. If I have EVER seen a gratuitous circle this is it. I pass it several time a week on the way to work. As you'll notice, neither street is very big. It's really just a circle that was added because no one wanted to make a decision of whether they should put a yield sign or stop sign for someone. About 50% of the cars simply drive right on top of the little reflectors rather than actually going around the circle. It's quite fun!

Happy looping!